Let’s face the facts. You’re not Coca-Cola. You’re not Apple. You’re not even a B2C company. You’re a B2B company, and sometimes that makes branding a little bit tricky.
So how important is branding the B2B world? Well, the truth is that just as in consumer purchases, brand promises matter to B2B buyers. Because of this, it is vital that companies carve out their own space and find a place for their brand — making their products “the only choice” in their category.
Image credit: anjan58 on Flickr
Easy to say, really hard to do.
Here are three ways to get you started.
1) Be Different. Really Different.
In order to differentiate yourself enough, you have to completely stand out. There are a plethora of options for your clients (only as far away as the browser on their smartphone). The goal is to be so set apart from the others in your market that clients don’t even have to consider shopping around.
CMO writer Derrick Daye points to brand strategist David Aaker, who argues that brand differentiation “is not introducing yet another marginal difference but creating whole new categories or subcategories that redefine the market in such a way as to make competitors irrelevant or less relevant, and to cause consumers to rethink their decisions.”
This point goes well beyond simple “branding” and into the worlds of strategy and business models. But… it is the truth of the market. That is, unless your offering IS really different — in a meaningful way — just touting a feature/benefit that offers marginal additional value will not create a “magnetic” marketing moment.
Key Takeaway: Differentiation in your category means the consumer doesn’t need to look twice before deciding to go with your company.
Question: What are some realistic ways I can differentiate my company on this level?
Further Reading: What a Russian Hair Stylist Teaches Us About Differentiation
2) Think Like a B2C.
There are some who say there is no crossover between B2B and B2C branding. I’ll go out on a limb and say that may have been true 20 years ago, but that’s not our current (social-media/engagement-obsessed) reality.
Marianne Moore, contributor at CMO, says, “What it all boils down to is getting actionable in view of [the] care-abouts and sensibilities [of your customers].” Your customers are people who want something that will add value to their lives — whether you are B2C or B2B. Since so much has been written in the spotlight about branding in the B2C market, why not take certain lessons and apply it to your B2B business? Ultimately, the process is the same — and the bottom line is to take care of your customers.
Key Takeaway: You can apply aspects of the B2C branding process to your B2B branding strategy, especially in terms of customer value, satisfaction, and loyalty.
Question: What can we learn from B2C companies about branding, especially in terms of communicating value?
Further Reading: 3 Principles of Killer Branding
3) Your B2B Client is a Human Being.
Similar to #2, the most important thing that B2B companies need to remember when it comes to branding is that they are reaching out to human beings. You’re not just dealing with “a decision maker,” but “Lisa the CEO,” or, “Jerry the Marketing Director.” You’re not just selling business to business, but human being to human being.
Don’t just take my word for it: Forbes contributor Patrick Hanlon says,
“Historically, b2b marketers have always tried to keep a shadowy, artificial distance from consumer marketing. But today that gap (if there ever was one) is closing. B2b marketers realize that, in the end, they are selling to human beings.”
So how can you emphasize this point in your branding strategy? Here are a few ideas:
- Use First-Hand Testimonials: Let your customers become your advocates.
- Attend Trade Shows: Don’t downplay the impact of face-to-face interaction.
- Listen: Invest in your customers by listening to their concerns, and acting on them.
- Problem-Solve: Collaborate with your customers to solve any issues they are facing.
- Become a Cheerleader: Display a true desire to see your customer’s company succeed!
Key Takeaway: Your clients are people, so find multiple ways to interact on a human level.
Question: What ways can we try (that we haven’t already tried) to build relationships with our customers?
Further Reading: Relational Advertising (Customers Are People Too)